Sunday November 29th, 2015 5:36AM

Georgia women off to rare 0-2 start in SEC

By The Associated Press
ATHENS -- Another game with Tennessee, another loss for Georgia.

This time, however, the Lady Bulldogs are 0-2 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time in 20 years.

"It is what it is, but it's only two games," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "It doesn't feel good and you don't like it. But it's a long time until the first of March."

Despite a season-high 18 points from Krista Donald and 15 from Tiaria Griffin, No. 19 Georgia lost 85-70 to No. 5 Tennessee on Sunday - the Lady Bulldogs' sixth straight setback in the series and 14th in the last 15 matchups.

Ariel Massengale finished with a career-high 28 points and Isabelle Harrison added 18 points and 10 rebounds for Tennessee (12-2, 1-1 SEC).

During an 8-minute stretch of the second half, Georgia went on a 31-11 run to cut the lead to 76-70 with 1:12 remaining on Merritt Hempe's two free throws.

But Massengale followed with two free throws that pushed the lead back to eight, Donald committed an offensive foul and Tennessee went up 80-70 on a pair of foul shots by Andraya Carter.

Tennessee was coming off a rare loss in a SEC regular season opener, falling by three points last Wednesday at home to LSU.

Beating Georgia allowed the Lady Vols to avoid losing consecutive SEC regular season games for the just the fourth time in school history and the first since 1996-97.

"Tennessee is a great team," Hempe said. "They always are and they always have great players. We handled them pretty well at the beginning, but we've got to fix some things on defense."

The Lady Bulldogs have dropped three of four following an eight-point setback last week at Vanderbilt.

Khaalidah Miller, who began the game as Georgia's third-leading scorer, was 1 for 9 from the field and finished with five points.

With the scored tied 17-all, the Lady Vols went on a 23-11 run to close out the first half. During that stretch, Harrison had 12 points, six rebounds, one steal, one assist and two turnovers.

Mercedes Russell, Tennessee's highly touted freshman center, made her second career start and first against an SEC opponent. Russell finished with seven points and five rebounds.

In a 3:45 span early in the second half, Massengale scored hit a 3, a jumper, a halfcourt layup, converted a three-play and closed with two straight fastbreak layups to push the lead to 24.

"(Tennessee coach Holly Warlick) called a lot of plays that included high ball screens just to see how they would guard them and they didn't do a very good jo," Massengale said. "I saw openings. The posts set great screens. Their post players had to help and it's easier for a guard to go against a post and get by them."

The Lady Vols opened up their first double-digit lead on Carter's straightaway 3-pointer at the 3:07 mark of the first half.

Erika Ford stole the ball from Jasmine Jones and Miller followed by passing behind her back on near the Georgia baseline for a fastbreak layup by Shacobia Barbee that made it 36-26 with 2:02 left in the first.

On Tennessee's next possession, Donald stole the ball from Harrison, but Miller missed the ensuing layup. Harrison grabbed the rebound and sank a couple of free throws to make it 38-26 at the 1:38 mark.

"We can't dig that deep of a hole," Griffin said. "We need to stay the course and do better. We were most definitely encouraged (by coming back) and we felt we should have done it throughout the whole game."

The last time the Lady Bulldogs were 0-2 in the SEC, they lost to Vanderbilt and at Kentucky in January 1993.
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